Tucson Massage Therapy: State of the Union

Before I graduated from massage school in 1999, I decided that I would move to Maine, a state I’d fallen in love on a camping trip when I was a teen. Never mind that I knew nothing about actually living in Maine. And never mind that, at that point, I had approximately $17, 97 tank tops, and 1 sweater. I also had the belief that I could make anything happen, so I decided to test the massage market in Maine the only way I knew how.

I somehow managed to find a listing of every massage therapist in and around the particular city I was interested in. I bought a box of envelopes and a few books of stamps and put pen to paper. You see, as a massage student at the Desert Institute of Healing Arts in Tucson, Arizona, I had only ever experienced total transparency from my teachers—or as they liked to be called, even while I was a student, my colleagues. If I had a question for any one of them, it was met with an answer. I was never turned away, and people were always willing to take part in a conversation about their experiences as massage therapists. So I believed that every massage therapist in the world was like that.

I was still in my twenties. So much to learn!

I wrote a simple, friendly letter to every working therapist with an address. Hello, it said, my name is Sarah, and I am hoping to move to your area within the year. I would love to know what the massage market is like there . . . etc. In each letter, I included a self-addressed stamped envelope to make it easy for people to reply, and off they went. I sent about 40 letters in all, and believed with all of my sweet, naive little heart that I would hear back from all of them.

One. I heard back from one. She was quite nice and informative and answered all of my questions pretty thoroughly, even adding that when I did relocate, I should look her up and we could get a cup of coffee. But when, after three months, she remained the only one to respond, I became discouraged and gave up on my hopes of relocating.

I tried this again a year later with New Hampshire (this was my New England phase) and was sadly unsurprised that I heard from not one single person. Years later, while in my Midwest phase, my husband and I actually moved to Ohio (we lasted 4 months). I try not to think too much about this strange episode in my life because it makes me twitch, but for the sake of this post, I will.

In this case, I thought it would be better for me to actually check out the market in person, so once we were settled, I began to call massage therapists. But this approach met with the same lack of success. Sadly, the one massage therapist who was open to talking with me and eventually met me for coffee was so isolated and lonely within her profession that it was a depressing meeting. I walked away from it discouraged and homesick. Which led us back to Tucson.

With a few phone calls and letters to my Tucson clients and colleagues, my schedule was full before the truck was even packed for our move back. It was like sliding into my favorite pair of boots. My career flourished once we were settled back home, and I was thrilled to be working. I returned to teaching a different kind of teacher, since I had been given the great gift of perspective.

When my students expressed the common concern that Tucson was a “flooded” market, I disputed it, as I do now. Over a thousand licensed practitioners in a city of over a million? I contend that those are great odds. People will always need massage, and many people are in need of your particular skill.

I urged my students to interact with their community and try to appreciate that in Tucson many of the battles are already won. You can talk about what you do and encounter acceptance and interest, and although there are difficulties in building a busy practice, you can look to your massage family for support and networking.

When people ask me why Massamio is launching in Tucson, the answer seems simple to me. There is no better place to launch an idea that supports the independent massage therapist. The bodywork community in Tucson is large, supportive and open. We want to talk about what we do, educate students, give tours of our practices, and offer encouragement. There are 1,300 licensed, well-educated massage therapists here.

Many of them are dedicated to setting higher standards within the profession and raising the bar in our massage schools. I know there are many similar places across the country, and I’m looking forward to interacting with those communities, and to nurturing that kind of environment in other places.

One thing I look forward to as Massamio’s Therapist Liaison and Professional Excellence Manager, is being able to develop relationships with other massage communities across the country. I want to hear from them what they feel is working, and what isn’t. I’m eager to discover what Massamio can do to fill in the gaps and create a stronger, more harmonious community of massage therapists.

I’d like to expand the feeling of community among therapists—and the appreciation of massage among the public—I’ve found here in Tucson to every city in the nation. The majority of people here are receptive to alternative and preventative medicine and supportive of small business. When people ask me what I do for a living, I reply with glee, “I’m a massage therapist!” and there are only ever two responses: either they ask me for my business card or they begin to tell me how much they love their massage therapist.

I’m excited because Massamio is exciting. It’s a smart, supportive solution that will open up a whole new world for the independent therapists. Massamio’s core values are community, connection, and supporting and optimizing your small massage practice. Those are values that I, for one, can get behind.


Comments from original Massamio post:

I am a MT in Effingham, IL. I find some therapists here open to sharing, some are not. I would gladly sit and have a cup of coffee with a other MT and share ideas and knowledge. Always a learning experience for me. I love my job! — Posted @ Monday, January 21, 2013 8:23 AM by Ruth Armstrong